I am getting reading to do a lecture/workshop next week on serving people with intellectual disabilities who identify as LGBTQ and am therefore running through my memories of those who I have served. I remembered in particular a man I was working with when I was in the sexuality clinic. The clinic was only into its second or third year and had an advisory committee overseeing many of the decisions that were made in service to people who'd made serious sexual mistakes or offended. He came to me one day and asked if he could speak to someone gay about being gay because he had some questions. He knew that I was gay, but I was also part of the system, a system that he didn't trust.
As an agency, we discussed this up, down, and sideways. We didn't want to be accused of leading people down the garden path to homosexuality, which is I believe, the only way you can get there. But finally all agreed that the request was independently made and we needed to honour it. I looked around and found no one who felt competent to talk to this man. His disability frightened people away - "I don't know what I'd say" to which I said, just answer his questions.
Finally, I found a gay Baptist minister (!) who was willing to meet with him. The day came and I met the minister about half an hour before the man who had requested the meeting was to arrive. We talked and he was a wonderfully gentle man and took what he was about to do seriously. When the time came I brought the two men together in a large office, I made to stay and was asked nicely to leave. My heart skipped but I acquiesced.
They talked for about an hour and when the door opened I saw the man I supported smiling, he thanked the minister and then me. I asked him if it was okay for the minister to tell me what they talked about and he said that was fine. I closed the door behind me and sat down.
The minister told me that he had only one question, "Can two men love each other?" At first the question was misunderstood and the minister started to talk about sex and consent but he was stopped. "No, I asked if two men could love each other, not can two men have sex together, I know that."
That's what he wanted to know.
Can two men love each other?
It's a more difficult question than you might think because in an agency or a group home your rights to a sexuality are adjudicated by the people who say they work for you. Even today, years later, that can be a dangerous question for someone to ask. It can get you punished. It can get you hurt. It can get you marked for abuse and subjugation.
Love, he was told.
He left happy, he left with his heart full, three years later he was in love and preparing to live with his boyfriend. Because love.